The Minneapolis-based Graves Foundation has acquired the largest commercial structure at the intersection where George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in 2020 — a good thing in a neighborhood marked by tumult, despair and economic decline.
The foundation last week closed on the $1.1 million deal for 3728-40 Chicago Av., paying less than half the price sought in 2019 by the former longtime owner.
The plan is for the several-door commercial-residential property to be refreshed, restocked and managed by veteran Powderhorn neighborhood developer-manager Dan Coleman and his partner, businessman P.J. Hill. They will buy the building from Graves over several years.
"We are doing this through our Graves Ventures," said Bill Graves, president of the foundation. "Our commitment is to see Dan and P.J. move into full ownership of the building and we seek to break even. Not to make a buck."
Grateful entrepreneurs John and Denise Graves formed the foundation, based in nearby Midtown Exchange on Lake Street, after the sale of their tax-software company. They plan to donate and invest $100 million over time on behalf of disadvantaged youth in Hennepin County and economic development in diverse, low-income neighborhoods.
Bill Graves, who left a business career to manage the foundation for his parents, connected with Coleman and Hill last year after he learned they were having trouble increasing their investment at 38th and Chicago.
The Graves have roots on the South Side. Bill Graves' grandfather lost his Lake Street car dealership during the 1930s Depression before taking a job in St. Cloud.
Coleman and Hill tried to buy the 3728-40 commercial-residential complex from long-time owner Mike Stebnitz over a year ago. Coleman's banker wouldn't underwrite a loan because of unrest-related vacancies and a cloudy future for the neighborhood.
Stebnitz, who moved to Florida several years ago, had refurbished the complex over a decade and stocked it with business and residential tenants. Most fled in the aftermath of Floyd's death as the intersection became the flash point of gathering and protest.
"Stebnitz was a good community-minded owner," Minneapolis economic development chief Erik Hansen said of the former owner. "There's been fear that outside [speculators] would come in and buy it … to just hold it. P.J. and Dan are good guys. They will [invest] in the neighborhood.''
Coleman, 38, a University of Minnesota graduate and basketball player, grew up on the South Side and started investing largely in multifamily housing in Powderhorn neighborhood while playing in Europe a decade ago. He acquired a different building at the intersection, the one on the southeast corner of 38th and Chicago in 2019, several months before Floyd's murder.
A restaurateur Coleman recruited, Dragon Wok, failed in 2020 amid disruptions after Floyd's death. Last year, chef Imani Jackson opened her Chopped & Served catering and takeout business in the ground-floor space after moving from a smaller space elsewhere.
Hill, 35, played basketball for Ohio State University and professionally before returning to Minneapolis to become a financial adviser. The Minneapolis resident worships at his uncle Curtis Farrar's 40-year Worldwide Outreach for Christ ministry at 38th and Chicago. Hill co-chaired Mayor Jacob Frey's 2021-22 Inclusive Economic Recovery task force.
Hill and Coleman plan to fully lease 3728-40 Chicago, pocked now by vacant storefronts.
"Our roots are here," said Hill. "It's an honor for Dan and I to own property at that intersection. This is our opportunity to pay it forward.''
Coleman and Hill are Black grassroots developer-managers with limited access to capital.
Coleman also acquired and renovated a commercial-residential property at 38th and Bloomington, several blocks east of Chicago. He has earned no return on his capital, thanks to the destruction and disruption on 38th Street since 2020.
Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins, who represents E. 38th Street, is encouraged. The city and community this year should make a decision on the future of the partly obstructed Chicago intersection. The city is buying the former Super America site across from Cup Foods, for transformation into a memorial and health-and-healing center.
"I've talked to P.J. and Dan about this for two years ... and it portends the optimism in the community," Jenkins said. "They are staking a bigger claim at this challenged intersection.''
Sam Willis Jr., co-owner of Just Turkey restaurant at 3731 Chicago, said he's proud of Hill and Coleman for doubling down at 38th and Chicago.
"This area is good and business is getting better after a terrible winter," said Willis, another South Side native and graduate of Roosevelt High School.
There's a growing vision of a revitalized commercial hub, cognizant of the tragic past, and poised for a revitalized future in housing, art, food and other businesses.